A living wall is a vertically built structure intentionally covered with vegetation, it is also referred to as a green wall and for good reason. Not only does a vertical garden on an otherwise blank wall look extremely attractive, but there are huge environmental and sustainable advantages to be had too. With the addition of a green wall on a property, private or commercial, the heating and cooling bills can be reduced; it adds thermal benefits to a building, being the most natural form of cladding and aids in reducing urban temperature as well as pollution.
A green wall is an excellent noise insulator, reputedly to absorb over 40% more sound than a conventional building facade, ensuring a quieter environment at home or the office. A sense of well being is created, a positive effect on how the people feel, spirits are lifted, increased happiness and improved mental health, these are all benefits from vertical gardening.
There are living wall modular systems that are available in a kit form to suit the vertical space available and budget. A drip irrigation system should be installed that will be connected to the mains water supply. It is an excellent opportunity to enhance biodiversity by increasing more plant life into an area, other than at ground level only. The chosen plants can be ones that are attractive to bees and specific habitat boxes can be incorporated within the structure that will provide refuge for a number of species such as butterflies, ladybirds and lacewings. A vertical garden can bring nature to an urban environment and whilst doing so improving the health of the people.
With regards to plant selection, this depends on the aspect of the wall and the local climate unique to the area. There are, however, a huge variety of plants that can be used from annuals, perennials, succulents and even edibles.
Spring is a good time to plant as the young plants will establish and grow together and it is important to have a year round interest, thus, incorporate plants with shape, form and colour of foliage as well as flowers.
There are immense benefits to be had from a living wall, if space is limited at ground level, then why not consider growing vertically?
It will be greatly appreciated by the people that use the building, people that are passing by and the biodiversity it creates will be appreciated too by nature.
Plants which possess silver foliage can compliment a garden in many different ways, they provide a distinct contrast planted alongside green foliage and they can provide an all year round interest, brightening up an otherwise lacklustre area of the garden. But, it is not only a dull area that can benefit from the addition of a glaucous colour, a great attribute of silver/grey foliage is the ability to reflect sunlight and conserve water, this is enhanced by the hairy type foliage or a waxy texture of the leaves which many possess.
Many of theses plants are native to hot and dry areas and therefore drought tolerant, requiring low maintenance and will perform well in a full sun area of the garden with well drained soil.
Silver foliage adds elegance and a cool sophistication to the garden and can be found on large trees down to small ground cover shrubs and perennials. Eucalyptus, the snow gum tree, is one of the hardiest of Eucalyptus and the grey
tinged leaves on white twigs radiates an impression of silver, complimented by a grey /white smooth trunk.
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’ is a large shrub which can grow to a height of four metres. Its latin name denotes thin leaves, these having white markings on the edges, giving an affect of a silvery foliage. It is an ideal plant for coastal areas. Popular small to mid-sized shrubs are lavender and Helichrysum, both release pleasant aromas, the latter being more known as the Curry plant due to its distinct curry fragrance.
With regards to small shrubs and perennials, there are plenty available and more to choose from. Convolvulus cneorm is a small shrub native to the mediterranean and displays silk grey hairs on its evergreen foliage, hence it being more known as the Silver Bush. Santolina or Cotton lavender is ideal for ground cover and filling in gaps within the borders, the yellow pompom flowers provide a nice contrast with the silver fragrant foliage.
Another popular ground cover is the perennial Lambs Ear or
. It is also known as Silver Carpet and has oval, woolly silver leaves with fine hairs and is suitable for the front of borders, covering areas with its carpet, mat forming
characteristics. There are numerous other silver foliage plants, the following are popular;
- Senecio cineraria/Silver Dust
- Sea Holly/ Eryngiums.
- Cardoon/Cynara cardunculus
- Honeywort/Cerinthe major
- Rose Campion/Lychnis coronaria
- Brunnera macrophylla/Jack Frost
If not already in possession of silver leaf plants, then why not incorporate some into the garden, either in shade or full sun areas and if every cloud has a silver lining, then surely every garden should have some silver foliage.
Most, if not all gardens there will exist an area subjected to shade, an area of comparative darkness and coolness caused by a shelter from the direct sunlight.
As the summer approaches and the strength of the sun’s rays increase, the shady areas which are often neglected should perhaps be embraced and appreciated more. Shade is created by buildings, walls, fences or tree top canopies and when a solid structure is the cause, more often than not, it will provide protection against wind too.
This microclimate can provide a pleasant seating area on a hard or soft landscaped surface, providing protection from the midday sun and strong winds. Climbing plants which are suitable to grow in shade are:
Certain types of climbing roses are also shade tolerant and some climbers are more vigorous than others which should be taken into consideration.
Shrubs can be planted directly into the ground or the use of pots maybe more appropriate. As with climbers, many shrubs can provide a profusion of colour within an area of comparative darkness.
Popular shrubs for growing in the shade are:
There are numerous other shrubs which are compatible with shade and it is advisable to research online or a visit to a nearby garden centre. The average temperature will also has a huge affect on the plants growing rate and an area of shade is most likely to have a North or North Easterly aspect and subject to cold, if not freezing temperatures during the winter. This should be taken into consideration before plant selection. Treetop canopies can provide full shade to a dapple shade and the choice of planting here should be more akin to a natural woodland environment. These would be perennials which return each year such as:
The above, once again can bring great colour and vibrancy to an otherwise sombre section
of the garden.
Therefore, no longer be kept in the dark, surround oneself with an abundance of colour and
sally forth into the shade.
Frogs and toads are a great indicator of a thriving ecosystem existing within the garden, it is therefore advisable to create a welcoming environment for them to live.
They are classified as bioindicators, a living organism which represents the health of the garden, similar to worms and lichens and if any toxins or harsh chemicals are present then these bioindicators may perish. The greatest benefit frogs and toads have to offer is their diet, they consume a variety of insects, a natural method of eliminating the unwanted pests and not having to resort to a synthetic pesticide.
March onwards frogspawn and toadspawn can be seen beneath the surface of ponds and streams, frogspawn takes on the appearance of jelly like eggs, whereas, toadspawn has more of a ribbon like character. The frogspawn dots transmute into comma shape, then into unhatched tadpoles and finally the full metamorphosis is complete from tadpole to frog, this final stage can range from one month to several depending on the species. The tadpole diet of algae changes to a
carnivorous diet for the frog. If there is an abundance of algae and a congenial environment the tadpole can delay its transformation into a frog. However, if algae is sparse and predators abound then they will transform into a frog sooner.
To encourage frogs and toads into the garden a natural environment will have to be created for them which resembles their natural habitat in the wild. Firstly, when choosing plants and shrubs, if possible incorporate native plants, shrubs and grasses opposed to non-native or invasive plants.
The addition of a pond or water-feature is an axiom, it is the breeding ground and without doubt the greatest enticement to allure the amphibians, but ensure the pond has a natural, informal edge creating easier access and wildlife friendly.
Its not just presence of water but also compost heaps, piles of logs or stones where they can seek shelter and prey on slugs and insects too.
It is reputed that frogs and toads can consume up to an astounding one hundred insects each day, this being extremely beneficial to the entire garden including the vegetable garden, thus, requiring little need for pesticides.
Chemicals accumulate in water and being that frogs and toads requiring a moist, damp environment, they would suffer immensely from the run off of pesticide use. For a well balanced ecosystem to exist then why not encourage frogs and toads into the garden, a delight to listen to in during the summer and a natural way to keep the pests at bay.
During the month of March the northern hemisphere spring equinox occurs, thus the length of daylight is
equal to that of darkness. From then onwards the daylight hours increase and the gardening season is well
and truly upon us and no doubt a floriferous spring and summer to look forward to.
A variety of summer bloom can come from the bulbous plants and the month of March is ideal to plant
the following popular bulbs:
- Cannas Lily
All of the above can be regarded as sub-tropical plants, which thrive in the sunny and warm locations of
the garden. Therefore, it is best to take heed of the weather forecast and not to proceed with planting if a
frost is imminent.
Essentially the difference between spring bulbs and summer bulbs is that the spring bulbs require several
weeks of cold temperatures to trigger the upward growth, hence they are planted in autumn and remain in
the soil throughout the winter with growth and blossom occurring in spring. However, the summer bulbs
with their preference for a warmer climate do not require this slumber period of cold temperatures.
The term bulb is used generically as it includes bulbs, tubers, corms and rhizomes. They are all
underground storage organs, the correct name which classifies them all under one umbrella is
‘Geophytes’ originating from Greek, earth (Geo) and plant (phytes).
The planting depths can vary depending on the type of bulb, a good rule of thumb is two to three times the
size of the bulb which more than often equates to planting approximately 100mm deep.
Dahlias are root tubers and can benefit from being pot planted in a greenhouse for the initial growth to
commence and then transplanted into the garden, this is to ensure they do not succumb to any frosts. It is
however, the temperature of the soil, a minimum of 13c and not the air temperature which contributes to
healthy and beautiful dahlias, therefore, it is best to choose an area with full sun and lighter, free drainage
Gladioli and Crocosmias are both corms and to be planted approximately 100mm deep and it is advisable
to prepare the planting bed by adding some compost after loosening the soil with a garden fork. The
Crocosmia corms will benefit from being planted in clumps, whereas, the Gladioli should be planted
individually with the point of the corm facing upwards and by placing several in close vicinity to one
another, one will be rewarded with a fabulous display of blossom. Gladioli also make excellent cut
flowers for the enthusiastic florists amongst us.
Begonia tubers are suited for containers and hanging baskets and will provide a continuous colour
throughout the summer and autumn. The fibrous rooted variety are more suitable for the garden beds. The
tubers have a convex side which is planted downwards, the concave side will posses the new growth and
faces upwards. Plant in a pot with a thin layer of gravel/shingle to allow for drainage then the remainder
with compost and plant the tuber just beneath the surface.
The range of colourful begonias available ensure hanging baskets are a great addition to any garden.
The canna lily is a rhizome (underground stem) and the large bold tropical leaves and striking flowers
make for a terrific display and should be planted in full sun and a sheltered location away from strong
winds. Plant the rhizomes, with the growing points facing upwards, 100mm deep with 500mm spacing
between each one for a superb summer display and then water thoroughly.
It is highly recommended to use a soil thermometer probe before the planting of summer bulbs, then one
can be sure the necessary soil temperature of 13c has been reached for a successful summer bloom.
We often strive for an orderly and well maintained garden, one which looks tidy with regular pruning, mowing of lawns and the weeding of garden beds. Aesthetically pleasing and satisfying this may be, the garden, however, becomes devoid of any mess and untidiness, and this in due course can have an adverse affect on the wildlife and beneficial insects.
The beneficial insects being those which create a natural ecological balance within the garden, attracting a range of prey and predators. These insects and mammals work in harmony and will reduce the unwanted pests which can attack the vegetable garden and shrubs alike. They will also lessen the need for any chemical applications. To entice these insects into the garden, a suitable, natural habitat is required, and the most appropriate is a dead wood habitat, essentially, a pile of logs or a wood stack.
Winter is an ideal time to procure the dead wood, either from gathering any fallen branches within the garden or by pruning the dead limbs and branches, particularly from deciduous trees and shrubs. Avoid collecting the wood from natural woodlands and hedgerows as this will be disrupting an existing habitat and the natural environment.
Alternatively, ask neighbours if they have any excess dead wood they are wanting rid of, I am sure it would be greatly appreciated.
The location of the wood pile within the garden is critical for a successful dead wood habitat, it should be away from direct sunlight and sited in a full shade area, or with dapple light. This environment will augment the wood decay and encourage fungi, mosses, lichens and insects.
To construct a log pile it is advisable to find logs with the bark still attached, the bottom layer of say four to five logs to be partially buried into the ground, the decaying wood beneath the soil’s surface attracts certain types of beetle. Ensure there are nooks and crannies for insects and mammals to enter and then add leaf litter into the gaps to encourage hedgehogs seeking hibernation. Another couple of log rows can be placed on top, the dark and damp conditions will lure centipedes, millipedes and woodlice which in turn attract the predators such as birds, toads and hedgehogs.
A wood stack is constructed with smaller branches and twigs and is just as beneficial as a log pile for wildlife. Firstly, it is recommended that branches/stakes are driven vertically into the ground, forming a rectangular shape and with approximately half metre remaining above ground.
Then start with laying the larger branches at the bottom and begin to fill the formed rectangular shape with the remaining branches and twigs until the desired height is reached.
A mixture of wood is good for both log pile and wood stack, however, poplar and willow cuttings can have a tendency to re-sprout if in prolonged contact with the ground. The wood will slowly decay over a duration of time and more can always be added, thus, a permanent home has now been created to encourage the beneficial insects and assist
towards a balanced ecological garden. If unsure how to dispose of the logs and wood cuttings, then why not transmute them into a dead wood habitat, as dead wood breeds life.
December is an ideal time to plan a garden reset or makeover in preparation for the following spring and if not practising already why not try cold frame gardening.
Cold frame gardening is a method of planting different types of green life, mainly produce, in a microclimate created by a man-made structure.
The addition of a cold frame within the garden enables the growing season to be extended. They are versatile, require little surface area, ideal for a small garden and are easy to build, alternatively, they can be purchased flat pack or ready-made from an established retailer.
Essentially a cold frame is a bottomless box with a skylight, a halfway house between a greenhouse and exterior planting.
They can be positioned directly onto any garden bed and assist in warming bare soil in early spring.
The transparent lid allows the sunlight to enter and simultaneously prevents heat loss by convection which would otherwise normally occur, particularly during the night. Thus, a microclimate is generated with an increase in soil and air temperature and also providing protection against the elements, such as strong wind, rain, hail and even snow. Plants can be started earlier in spring, such as seedlings which can then be transplanted to open ground once established.
A variety of produce can be grown in a cold frame, the most popular being lettuce, spinach, kale and green onions. However, a variety of root vegetables and brassica can be grown too.
When deciding to position the cold frame, take in consideration that full sun is essential and the transparent cover should slope downwards at a slight angle facing southwards to absorb the heat from the sun and to allow for rain run off.
A cold frame can be constructed from any material, the sides being of a solid material such as wood or masonry and the top being of a transparent material such as glass. A wooden structure can look aesthetically pleasing as well as being portable too, whereas, brick or block structure will be a more permanent feature and choice of location should be greatly
considered before building.
The most simple method of construction being straw bales used as sides and an old disused glass window or door placed on top. Imagination is key!
It can be designed and built to suit your particular needs, hinges and handles attached for ease of opening the cover and if preferred one crop could occupy the entire cold frame or a combination of crops in rotation to provide produce throughout the year. It is important to ensure the transparent cover is clear from any debris, as this will inhibit heat absorption and with crops being under cover, regular watering will be required. Increased humidity can be a problem within a small enclosed area, therefore, allow for slight ventilation within the cold frame structure.
Specific frame designs are available so they can be positioned on a hard landscaped surface such as paving. These can take on the appearance of a miniature greenhouse and more suitable for potted plants.
Cold frames are cheap to buy, easy to build and easy to maintain. They can be sited directly onto a garden bed, gravel or a paved surface and are a valuable addition to any garden, large or small. A mobile and modular solution for growing plants, lower in price and occupying less space in comparison to a greenhouse, there are many advantages of
cold frame gardening.
contribution from Oliver David Cook
They maybe all around us now and covering large areas of the garden, often regarded as a hindrance when it comes to the maintenance of a neat and tidy garden. But, alas, leaves falling to the ground is a message from nature which one should take heed of, and that message being leaf matter is the best natural and free mulch available for the gardener and grower.
Fallen leaves can be found residing in many areas, from resting on the lawn to wind blown corners of the garden and now is the time to sally forth and gather. A large pile of leaves can be transmuted into leaf mould, the decomposed matter formed when the leaves have decayed over time. The leaves can be stored in plastic bin liner bags with a few holes
pierced in the sides and bottom, once full, a sprinkling of water is advisable then storage in a shady area of the garden is essential and the following autumn the rotten leaves form a crumbly rich surface mulch.
To be left for a second or third year will allow for increased decomposition of the leaf matter and this, with its added microbes, can then be used as a conditioner and soil enhancer which can be dug into the soil to aid in water retention for drier ground and for improving drainage in heavier soils. If preferred a leaf storage bin can be constructed and there are numerous methods of construction, one composed of chicken wire which permits air to travel through, being the
most simple. Once a large amount of leaves have been placed into the bin, apply a sprinkling of water and then cover with some black plastic sheeting on top to encourage the decomposition.
Leaf mulch is high in nutrients which will pass slowly into the ground below. As with all mulches it prevents the ground from drying out during the summer months and from becoming too cold or even freezing in the winter months. It also reduces the opportunity for the unwanted plants referred to as weeds to grow.
The leaves can be gathered regularly as they fall with hand tools such as a rake or broom, a lawn mower can be used on a higher setting to collect leaves from the lawn whilst shredding at the same time. If the leaves are not collected soon after falling, then they will dry out and loose their nutrients.
If your own garden is devoid of fallen leaves then maybe ask the neighbours, I am sure they would be happy with the assistance of leaf clearing. Or vice-versa, others in the neighbourhood may require leaf mulch too. The coming together can create a community free leaf mulch, this way the local gardens will never be without a mulch or compost.
It is advisable to avoid leaves which have been lying on roadsides, they may contain toxins. Certain leaves will break down faster than others, Horse Chestnut leaves taking longer than Oak leaves. The leaves from Walnut and Eucalyptus do contain a natural herbicide, this may inhibit the growth of plants within the area the mulch or mould is
The splendour of the autumnal colours from bright yellow to orange to a crimson red, it is one of natures finest displays, the deciduous trees then sleeping for the winter months. They took nutrients from the ground to assist their growth during spring and summer, and now is the time to give back to nature and this can be achieved by gathering the fallen
leaves and making a leaf mulch or mould full of natural nutrients.
Contribution by Oliver David Cook
My love of gathering wild food started when I was a child. I was born and grew up in London, but spent my childhood summers in the cabin my granddad built in the middle of the woods in Poland. The cabin was a world away from London life. Think washing in the stream, cooking on a wood fired stove, mushroom hunting, stargazing, and having to walk down a woodland path to get to the compost loo. Even when not in Poland, my parents have always loved a life outdoors, and would take my sister and I on all sorts of weekend adventures, many of which did involve mushroom foraging. I learnt about mushrooms mainly with my mum, who in turn learnt from her dad. There’s a big culture for mushroom hunting in Poland. I’m no expert, and really only know a handful of varieties, but the happiness I feel when I come across these mushrooms is immeasurable. Is it nostalgia? Is it something primordial? Or is it both of those mixed with the joy of being in the woods? Who knows. I only know that it gives me the kind of joy that seems excessive and bizarre to someone who doesn’t understand it. It’s also something that inspires my work. I’m an artist, illustrator and author, and my most recent children’s picture book ‘Wylder’ celebrates a more sensitive and mindful way of connecting with nature, including a good few nods to my love of wild food gathering.
There are many different thoughts that can lead me to go out looking for wild food. Mainly though, they fall into two camps: “I could do with some leafy greens,” or “I could do with some mindfulness/therapy.”
Over five years ago I moved to Cornwall, and although I’ve loved mushrooming since I was a child, it’s only in the last couple of years that I really started paying more attention to plants. A couple of years ago, it had been a while since I’d been mushrooming, and a beautiful solo adventure to a new spot reignited my love for it. It must have been then that I decided I didn’t want to rely on just one part of the year to get this feeling. I wanted to learn more about what you could gather all year round, which lead me to think more about plants.
Without knowing it you probably already know a good few wild edibles: brambles, nettles, dandelions… That’s how it started for me. Then one time, along with my sister and mum, I went on an organised foraging walk here on the coast. Gaining knowledge about some new plants sparked my interest further and had a snowball effect. Then learning more and more new plants randomly here and there whilst walking with or chatting with friends and family… It just changed the way I looked at things. I observed more during my walks, and I wanted to know what was what. It does surprise me just how much I’ve learnt through curiosity and interest. Gathering wild food and gaining knowledge on it is a satisfying and rewarding thing. I think the more you know, the more you want to know and the easier it becomes to absorb new knowledge.
Going out to gather wild edibles is a different way of looking at and engaging with your environment. By default you connect and interact with the land, you have to pay attention to your surroundings and engage your senses. I have no doubt that this form of focused awareness and presence has a great benefit for mind health. For me it definitely feels like mindfulness and a form of therapy. And how great it is to then on top of that have access to free food that’s full of nutrients, not only because it’s freshly picked, but also because it’s from more nutrient-rich wild and uncultivated soil.
In a supermarket you only have access to a handful of different leafy green varieties, but when you go for a walk you could be surrounded by dozens of edible plants without knowing it (and of course deadly poisonous ones too!). We’ve experienced a great loss in our connection to nature and food. The knowledge of wild edibles, something that is somewhere deep in all our blood, these days isn’t so readily available or accessible to everyone, and can all too easily start to seem like a fancy interest for the lucky people who have time on their hands.
It’s important to note though, that going out and picking plants to eat isn’t in itself a sustainable act, and on the contrary, when done in a non-mindful way, can actually be very damaging to nature and ecosystems. Something to remember is to never take more than what you will eat, and always leave plenty for wildlife… after all they don’t have grocery shops, and they completely rely on wild food. So go gently, and be mindful. Modern agriculture has a devastating impact on the planet and on the welfare of animals and humans, but with how densely populated the world currently is, plus how little wild spaces are left in comparison, if we all went to forage our own food right now this could have pretty interesting implications on the natural world too. Of course, it doesn’t look like we’re all suddenly going to do that, but it’s just good to stay mindful of how you interact with the natural world, whether it’s the environmental/ethical impact of the food you buy in a shop, or how you pick the mushrooms in the forest.
Here are a few common edible plants you may find it nice to get to know, and some of which you likely already know. These notes are not meant to be a guide in identification, just a little personal introduction to them that might inspire you to investigate further.
I’m sure everybody knows this one! Pick the top couple/few layers of leaves of this super food, and either make a nettle tea, nettle soup, add it to curry or pasta sauces, make it into a pesto, or just steam it and use it like any other cooked leafy green. You can use gloves if, unlike me, you don’t like the sting!
Such a versatile plant. I’m known to not bother de-weeding this nutritious medicinal plant from my veg beds, as I think of it more as a salad crop than a weed! You can eat the leaves, flowers, stems and cook the root. The leaves have a bitter taste, which I personally really like. I love the younger leaves added to salad (as it’s quick, easy and means you keep more nutrients intact by not cooking) and I’ve made soups and pestos out of the leaves too. The flowers are also great in salads, and I’ve made dandelion syrup from them before for a cake recipe, which is a nice thing to do when you have more time. But I’m definitely all about the faff-free plants that you can either eat raw or quickly cook, and dandelion is one of those for sure.
I think most of us know what a clover looks like with its three leaves, and how common it is. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, but up till now I’ve mainly only picked the flowers to add to salads. I really love adding flowers to salads, mainly for the colours and how it looks :)
Sorrel is one of those I had heard about for so long and wanted to find, but somehow only came across my first one way later… and now I see it everywhere! It really is a common plant. It grows in a rosette, and the main identifying feature is the pointed tails at the base of the arrow shaped leaf. It has a lovely sour citrusy taste, and I most like it added fresh to salads.
I love this succulent plant. It grows from stone walls and rock crevices and has a distinct appearance, so it’s an easy one to identify. It has a lovely fresh crisp taste and texture, and is great added to salads, curries, cooked dishes, or as a raw garnish to cooked dishes, to add freshness and texture. Be gentle when picking this one as the roots of the plant come up with the plant very easily if you’re not careful.
Another very common and highly nutritious plant that seems to grow almost everywhere. You can add the leaves to salads, and also add it cooked to dishes you would use other leafy greens in. I’d say I eat this one mainly because it’s so common and nutritious, not because it’s particularly tasty. I haven’t tried them myself, but apparently the flower buds have a mushroomy taste.
I’d known and loved honeysuckle and its beautiful scent for so long before I realised the flowers were edible! I add them to salads, and decorate cakes with them :)
Sea beet (coastal)
This rich green plant with its shiny succulent leaves can be found around the coast. It’s a great one to know about because it’s both very common and also delicious. Similar to spinach but tastier, and like spinach can be eaten raw or cooked.
Click hereThe Secret Wild Garden
Contribution by Maia Walczak words and pictures
The pumpkin is characteristic of autumn and synonymous with October and Halloween, it is also variety of squash and its true name being a cucurbita, which is the latin name for gourd. A gourd being a trailing or climbing plant, containing large fleshy fruits with a hard skin, some varieties being edible, others for decoration.
As a guide, the middle of October is an ideal time for harvesting of squash and pumpkin, however, one should be vigilant, they are frost tender and to harvest before the first frost is strongly advisable.
Allow the fruit to mature and colour wholly on the plant prior to the harvest, the colour being dependant on the type and variety which is grown.
The skins should be hard and not easily dented by a fingernail and its shine will also be slightly diminished. A soft outer skin will be susceptible to damage and eventual rot.
If the fruit cannot be harvested before a frost or a large amount of rainfall, then it is recommended to raise the fruit off from the ground, thus it is not in contact with the soil to lessen the chance of rot and infection. This can be done by the use of straw, cardboard or a solid object such as wood or a brick.
To reduce the chances of disease and infections it is best to harvest on a dry day and using a sharp knife or pruners and cut the stalk as far from the fruit as possible, ideally 10cm. The stem remaining intact with the fruit is essential for good health and storage and for this reason do not be tempted to carry them by their stems, the weight of the fruit causing it to brake off.
The fruit can then be cured, which entails leaving them exposed to higher a temperature, either outside or inside on a windowsill for approximately ten days.
This curing will improve flavour, heal any wounds and harden the skin. After they have been cured they can store for two to three months in a cool, dry and dark environment, ideally about 10c. However, beware that it does not become too
cold as they may soften and begin to rot.
During storage, ensure they are not touching each other and preferably, they are on a wooden surface or cardboard, do not store on concrete as it will increase the chances of rot.
Certain varieties of squash and pumpkins are suitable for a longer winter storage, whereas, others are best to be consumed this autumn, therefore, it is best to check which type you are harvesting. The popular squash varieties being the butternut, the golden butternut (coquina) and the striped harlequin are enjoyed with great gusto soon after harvesting.
Pumpkins which are best for consumption are not usually the best for Halloween carving and Jack-O-Lanterns. A rule of thumb being a smaller denser pumpkin will contain more flesh and are best for cooking, whereas, a larger pumpkin will have more area for artwork and with less flesh it will be easier to carve.
Gourds are extremely high in nutrients and being classified as a fruit they contain seeds too, which can also be salvaged and consumed.
It maybe for the culinary delights or for decorative purposes, either way, enjoy the wonderful squash and pumpkin which nature has provided us and after Halloween, why not return the pumpkin to the natural environment and use it as a bird feeder? It will be greatly appreciated.
Contribution by Oliver David Cook
Hello everyone, Green Landscapes Cornwall are sharing with you some ideas about how to implement different features for your garden!